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How to Make Green Beer for St. Patrick's Day
What is Green Beer?
Green beer is a light-colored beer (ale) which has been colored with blue or green dye (or natural colorants) in order to change its hue. Mostly an American tradition, this practice is mostly exclusive to St. Patrick's Day (perhaps with the exception of Miami University).
The color of beer may be altered after brewing (following one of the methods below) or during the brewing process (less commonly). For those wishing to alter the color of their ale at home, it is a relatively simple process, but you may also wish to purchase your beer pre-colored.
The Origins of Green Beer
The term "green beer" is almost as old as the practice of brewing beer is: It refers to beer that hasn't been sufficiently aged and which isn't ready to be drunk yet. This is the earliest reference to green beer, but it's not what we mean now when we think of "green beer."
What do we think of? Beer which has been dyed green, of course! This is probably an American invention (where beer is weaker than in other parts of the world and takes better to the coloring process), just as St. Patrick's Day is primarily an America holiday.
There's no clear indication of where the tradition started, but it may have begun in either Boston or New York (which one might consider to be the most likely places). One of the earliest mentions of green beer was in 1914, in reference to a celebration in New York (source).
Will you be serving/drinking green beer this St. Patrick's Day?
Why Color Beer Green?
Mainly because it's fun!
People dye their beer green for St. Patrick's day, and perhaps for other occasions relating to Irish traditions, because Ireland is the Emerald Isle, a country known for its lush green countryside. The color is associated with Ireland and therefore anything "Irish" comes in green. Beer, green, and Ireland all go hand in hand in the minds of many Americans, so Americans color their beer for Irish events.
If you're having a St. Patrick's Day party, or even going out for St. Patrick's Day, do you intend to drink yourself some green beer?
Green Beer Day Celebrated in Oxford, Ohio
Traditions of Green Beer and St. Patrick's Day
Obviously green beer is a tradition of St. Patrick's Day, probably begun by Americans in either Boston, Massachusetts, or in New York, New York. It seems to have first surfaced some time in the early twentieth century.
The tradition of green beer didn't become popular, however, until the late forties and early fifties, when it clearly began to really take off. It was in 1952 that Miami University first began to celebrate Green Beer Day.
Green Beer Day occurs on the last Thursday before the school goes on Spring break so that its students have a chance to enjoy the tradition at school, since St. Patrick's Day falls during the break.
Using Spirulina to color your beer may give it a "seaweed" flavor that you dislike. If this is the case, use synthetic food coloring without shame or don't color your beer.
Two Ways to Color Beer Green
There are two main ways to color your beer green: Naturally and synthetically. Both methods are listed here with access to purchase the coloring you'll need in order to produce green beer.
Synthetic dyes cost much less money than the natural dye required to color your beer green, so take this into consideration when choosing how to color your beer!
Synthetic Green-Colored Beer
Making your beer green using synthetic food dyes is really quite simple.
You'll need to use a light-colored beer to make this work. Dark beers won't take the color, for reasons that should be pretty obvious. Trying to dye your Guinness isn't going to get great results, but if you work with something lighter, you should get the results that you want.
This should also work with my Ginger Beer recipe!
Here are the very simple steps to coloring your light beer green:
- Put a few drops of blue food coloring in the bottom of your glass.
- Pour beer over the food coloring. Your beer should come up green with a green head!
Coloring Your Green Beer with Spirulina
If you'd like to use a more natural method of coloring your beer, I have two options for you. The first is to use Spirulina, which is a blue-green colored seaweed which will color your beer green. This ingredient is very high in antioxidants and in vitamin B, which can help to prevent next-day hangovers.
The steps to making your beer green with spirulina are just as easy as working with synthetic dyes, but remember that spirulina may give your beer a seaweed-y taste, much like Sushi seaweed (nori).
- Pour your beer.
- Add 1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon of algae to your beer.
- Watch it turn green!
Coloring Your Green Beer with Wheatgrass
Wheatgrass is another way to color your beer naturally, and because it is also rich in protein and in vitamin B, it is another way to help prevent hangovers. You work with it similarly to spirulina.
- Pour your beer.
- Add 1 tablespoon of powdered wheatgrass juice to 16 oz of beer.
Beer Brewed Green
Beer can also be brewed green, though finding recipes for how to do this seems to be quite difficult. It would appear that the spirulina is added with the hops in order to produce the green color in the beer, but you'd have to begin your brewing well in advance of St. Patrick's Day to make this process happen!
Green beer can also be purchased from Dogfish Head Brewery.
© 2014 Becki Rizzuti